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[Opinion] Lee Hae-chan vs Kim Doo-kwan

Posted July. 02, 2007 03:02,   


Kim Doo-kwan, the first Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, harshly criticized former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, who announced his candidacy for the presidency on June 27. Lee announced that he would run for president, saying that a presidential candidate must have proven himself. But Kim said, “Lee has no legacy to speak of as a former prime minister. What was proven about him is his golf ability. His premiership was a dark age of the administration.” Kim called Lee the “leading member of the vested interests of the democratization movement.” Lee must have been embarrassed, considering that he resigned from the post of prime minister over his golf outing on March 1 Independent Movement Day.

In terms of political career alone, Kim can hardly rival Lee. The 55-year-old former prime minister went to a prestigious high school and university and served as deputy mayor of Seoul and education minister during Kim Dae-jung’s presidency, and as a “powerful prime minister” in the current administration for 21 months.

The 48-year-old Kim was jailed when he worked as a high-ranking member of an opposition group which pursued democratic reunification of the Korean peninsula, and he went back to his hometown to start afresh as a village chief at the time. After working as the chairman of village chiefs in Namhae Province, he served as Namhae Governor for two terms. He made a rapid rise in the current administration, serving as a minister for seven months. He has failed twice in gubernatorial elections.

They also share similarities. Both of them are leading members of the ruling Uri Party. Kim was President Roh Moo-hyun’s former assistant for political affairs, while Lee currently holds the position. The president praised Lee as a “very sharp prime minister with extraordinary ability in managing state affairs.” Kim, also known as a “little Roh Moo-hyun,” was also commended by the president as a “symbol of a society where educational backgrounds do not constrain one’s success and ordinary people can realize their dreams. He is a symbol of the Korean dream.” The president also expressed his affection for Kim by saying, “I want to support him as much as possible.” Therefore, both of them owe the president big time.

There are so many presidential candidates in the ruling camp that some even say that “they should be streamlined through some TV debates.” Kim’s remark represents his intention to draw people’s attention. He might have thought that he could be considered to be at the same level as Lee by attacking the one candidate with the most extraordinary career among pro-Roh Moo-hyun candidates. It seems that Lee wants to be differentiated from Kim by offering no response to Kim’s attack. But it is true that Lee’s experience in managing state affairs could be a disadvantage if he is judged by his legacy.

Kwon Soon-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com